In ArcGIS Desktop, what is the difference between a "network dataset" and a "geometric network"?

Are there differences with what can be done with each?

1 Answer 1


The geometric network is used to model things like utility networks, drainage, or any other network where the commodity does not have free will.

Network dataset is used for networks where "an agent" can choose the path, such as transportation networks.

There a description here (scroll down to the What is a network? section): http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//004700000001000000.htm

Geometric networks (utility and river networks)
River networks and utility networks—like electrical, gas, sewer, and water lines—allow travel on edges in only one direction at a time. The agent in the network—for instance, the oil flowing in a pipeline—can't choose which direction to travel; rather, the path it takes is determined by external forces: gravity, electromagnetism, water pressure, and so on. An engineer can control the flow of the agent by controlling how external forces act on the agent.

Network datasets (transportation networks)
Transportation networks—like street, pedestrian, and railroad networks—can allow travel on edges in both directions. The agent on the network—for instance, a truck driver traveling on roads—is generally free to decide the direction of traversal as well as the destination.

  • Is there anything about these definitions that differs from the centuries-old conventional terms "directed graph" and "undirected graph"?
    – whuber
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 5:27
  • 3
    Geometric networks must be 100% directed. Network datasets are typically partly directed. Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 7:09
  • Big +1, I never understood the difference.
    – jvangeld
    Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 20:57

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